The Real Way to “Start Slow”
Instead of working with an altered form of the language, you can take the real language and slow it down digitally.
The free application Audacity is like a text editor for audio. It allows you to cut, copy, paste and delete audio with your mouse the same as you would text in a word processor. It also allows you to reduce the speed of recorded speech without distorting the phonemes, rhythm or intonation.
First, download audacity on your computer (it’s free!) by clicking this link here, then open it. Here’s what the new project screen will look like:
How to Create Your Own Flow-Training Materials
Foreign speech in its natural form is simply too much for us to handle as beginners. The sounds and patterns are not only too strange, they’re also too fast.
Traditionally, second language learners approach this issue by doing two things.
- Relying on written word.
- Working with slowly-enunciated speech.
We already discussed before how written word should be avoided at the early learning stages, as it will distort your understanding and perception of the sounds. But is it okay to develop your language skills with slowly enunciated speech?
Let’s find out. In the recording below, I repeat the phrase “What are you going to do tonight?” twice. The first time I say it normally, the second time I say it slow and enunciated:
Even though these two phrases mean the exact same thing, they are completely different in terms of rhythm, intonation and phonemes.
Since a language is partly-defined by its sound patterns, then slowly-enunciated speech is essentially a different language from normal speech.
If your only language input is your teachers talking to you as if you were mentally handicapped, than you won’t understand native speakers when they speak to you or amongst themselves naturally. Any time you spend learning a distorted version of your target language is time wasted.
To learn a foreign language, you have to learn the real sounds of that language.
The imported audio will show up as a visual waveform that you can navigate with the mouse and play by pressing space bar. You can even select a certain segment of audio by clicking and dragging.
Select whatever section of the audio you want to listen to closely, then click Effects–>Change Tempo. You can then specify the percentage by which you want to reduce the speed of the recording. I recommend not doing any more than 50% reduced speed. Depending on the quality and sampling rate of the recording, going beyond 50% might distort the phonemes.
In the recording below I take that same natural speed phrase “What are you going to do tonight? and reduce the speed by 40%. Notice how all the relevant features of the speech sound remain the same, but because it’s slower it’s much easier to pick out the nuances of the sound.
If this is still too much sound information for you to process all in one go, you can chop the track up the same way you would chop up a line of written text in a word processor. But instead of breaking it down by words, it’s best to break it down by rhythmic groupings of syllables.
Using the visualization of the audio as an aid, select the groupings that you want to separate by clicking and dragging, then go to Edit–> Copy (or Command + C) to copy just the selected audio. Then select an empty space later in the track and click Edit–>Paste (orCommand + V) to paste that section on its own.
With just a few clicks of the mouse, you can turn any snippet of speech into a bite-sized, learnable chunks of sound. This means you can learn natural speech as a pure beginner without having to distort the sounds with writing or unnatural enunciation.
The software is free, and native speaker recordings are easy to come by on the internet, so there’s no excuse not to purify your language-learning environment ASAP!
If you want to learn how I use Audacity to prepare my Flow-Training song-learning materials, check out my tutorial on “Flow-verlapping,” which is another Audacity technique for recording on top of native speakers to draw out the discrepancies in sound. Listen to the track of me Flow-verlapping in 5 languages as an example of what you can do.
Well, that about covers everything! I hope that this guide has helped you understand what it takes to really learn a language. By now you’re probably interested in what this method has to offer.
Taking the time to really break down and listen to the sounds of your target language will do wonders for your hearing perception, but there is a limit to what you can do on your own.
The Catch-22 of this training is that you’re never quite sure whether you’re hearing/articulating a sound correctly until you have already mastered it.
That’s why you should check out my Elemental Sounds Master Classes to make sure. Click this link to learn more